Sunrise Mall's owner is considering selling the property for "new economic...

Sunrise Mall's owner is considering selling the property for "new economic uses," Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph S. Saladino said. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

A Manhattan-based company is in talks to buy the troubled Sunrise Mall in Massapequa.

The mall’s Paris-based owner, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, is considering selling the property for "new economic uses," Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph S. Saladino said. He was among the town officials who met via Zoom with representatives from Urban Edge Properties, a potential buyer, to discuss the future of the mall, he said.

Saladino and other Oyster Bay officials encouraged Urban Edge to engage local stakeholders, including residents, the Massapequa School District and chamber of commerce, to discuss the needs of the community and how those needs could be incorporated into Urban Edge’s plans for Sunrise Mall if it decides to buy it, the supervisor said.

"We’d like to see this site flourish as a new economic hub to ensure that revenue derived by the school district is never shifted to the residential taxpayers," said Saladino, who added that he’d like to see the property attract corporate America and high-paying jobs for residents.

Urban Edge did not present a concrete plan for what it would do with the mall, Saladino said.

Saladino has not spoken to URW, he said.

URW, which also owns the Westfield South Shore mall in Bay Shore, said in a statement this week that it was reviewing options for Sunrise Mall.

"Strategic opportunities and new prospects are being evaluated for the center as we work with the Town of Oyster Bay and community stakeholders to explore options that maximize the number of jobs and the community benefit of the property, but there are no specific announcements to be made at this time," said URW, which has U.S. offices in Los Angeles and owns 89 malls and shopping centers.

Urban Edge declined to comment.

The Manhattan-based real estate investment trust’s 78 properties include several shopping centers on Long Island, such as Huntington Commons, formerly called Big H Shopping Center, on New York Avenue; Burnside Commons on Burnside Avenue in Inwood; and Meadowbrook Commons on West Sunrise Highway in Freeport.

Built in 1973, Sunrise Mall is about 1 million square feet.

In 2017, French property investor Unibail-Rodamco bought the Massapequa mall, then known as Westfield Sunrise, from Australia-based Westfield Corp. and took the name Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield.

The mall returned to its original name this past August.

Across the nation, shopping malls have been contending with rising store vacancy rates for the past few years, as they lose a growing number of consumers to online retailers and big-box stores.

Also, some of the mall shakeup is due to the United States having too many stores to begin with, said Rachel Johnson, associate director of market analytics at the CoStar Group, a Washington, D.C.-based commercial real estate information provider.

"I think … especially in the early years of the past decade, retailers really expanded and they grew revenues by growing their footprints, and they perhaps over-expanded by opening too many stores," she said.

The picture worsened this year due to months of government-mandated store and mall closings during the COVID-19 pandemic to help stop the spread of the virus.

But Sunrise Mall’s vacancy rate has for years far exceeded the average.

Its vacancy rate was 18.7% in the third quarter of this year, which was actually an improvement from the same period last year, when the rate was 23%, according to CoStar data.

By comparison, the mall vacancy rate in the third quarter of this year was 5.4% on Long Island, 4.3% in New York State and 6.7% in the United States, according to CoStar data.

Sunrise Mall’s anchor tenants include Macy’s, Sears, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Dave & Buster’s. Many of the smaller stores are small independent retailers.

Sunrise Mall lost a huge anchor, J.C. Penney, in 2017. Walmart closed its nearly 130,000-square-foot, two-level store at the mall in 2015, and its former first floor was leased to Dick’s Sporting Goods in April 2017.

Arcade and restaurant venue Dave & Buster’s took over 36,680 square feet of Walmart’s former space on the second floor in 2018.

But Dave & Buster’s and other arcades across the state have not been allowed to reopen since they were mandated by the state to close in March because of the pandemic.

Furthermore, upcoming closings at Sunrise Mall include an Aldo shoe store, GameStop and women’s clothing and accessories boutique Tess Morgan, all of which have closing signs in the windows.

Aldo, which has been in the mall since 2007, will be closing as part of the parent company’s restructuring process, "however, at this time, we can’t confirm the timing of the closure," a company spokesman said.

Based in Quebec, the Aldo Group Inc. filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy protection in May.

The GameStop in the mall is closing Jan. 24, a store employee said.

GameStop Corp. did not respond to a request for comment about why the store was closing. But the Grapevine, Texas-based company closed 462 stores in the first 10 months of this year as it focuses on more-profitable locations and online retail, according to a third-quarter earnings report.

Tess Morgan did not respond to a request for comment.

Sunrise Mall snapshot

Built: 1973

Size: 1 million square feet

Anchors: Macy’s, Sears, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Dave & Buster’s

2020-21 school tax bill: $4,029,730

2020 general taxes paid (town, village, water, fire): $2,924,210

Source: Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, Town of Oyster Bay

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